The Mexican Sweet Bread To Honor The Dead

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Pan de Muerto is a soft, pillowy sweet bread infused with star anise and orange blossom water and coated in a layer of granulated sugar, per Delish. (Although King Arthur suggests using anise seeds, so whichever version you have on hand seems to work alright). It’s an elaborate process with an unsurprisingly long handling time: Per Food & Wine, a single loaf takes six hours to make.

The loaf itself is usually decorated with a skull shape, or crossbones, which serve as a dual representation of the four directions of the Aztec calendar. Pan de Muerto can be made in other different shapes, as well. Carlos Tzel, a sous chef based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, says sometimes the bread loaf is topped with smaller circular mounds meant to symbolize the bones of the deceased.

In addition to Pan de Muerto, other common foods for celebrating the holiday include sugar skulls, tamales, and the deceased ancestors’ favorite foods. Pan de Muerto is left on home altars called “ofrendas” overnight as an offering to spirits in the classic Day of the Dead tradition. Then, the next morning, it is enjoyed by the family for breakfast with hot chocolate.

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